The New England Journal of Medicine just published a study on the medical and social problems of adults (20-36 years old) who were born alive (and without congenital anomalies) in Norway between 1967 and 1983. The authors state:
Advances in perinatal care have increased the number of premature babies who survive. There are concerns, however, about the ability of these children to cope with the demands of adulthood.”
Here are some of the most important points:
1.The risk of serious medical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and disorders of psychological development, behavior, and emotion, as well as of other major disabilities such as blindness or low vision, hearing loss, and epilepsy increased markedly with decreasing gestational age. We also observed a significant association of autism-spectrum disorders with very low gestational age, but these findings were based on a very small number of cases in the lowest gestational-age groups.
2. At 19 to 35 years of age, nearly 1 of 9 persons who had been born at 23 to 27 weeks of gestation received a disability pension, as compared with 1 of 12 who had been born at 28 to 30 weeks, 1 of 24 born at 31 to 33 weeks, 1 of 42 born at 34 to 36 weeks, and 1 of 59 born at term.
3. There were progressively higher risks of cerebral palsy, mental retardation and autism with decreasing gestational age.
4. Among those who did not have medical disabilities, the gestational age at birth was associated with the education level attained, income, receipt of Social Security benefits, and the establishment of a family, but not with rates of unemployment or criminal activity.
5. Babies born between 23-27 weeks were 78 times more likely to have CP than those born at term.
6. Babies born <28 weeks were 9.7 times as likely to develop Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Moster D, Lie RT, Markestad T. Long-Term Medical and Social Consequences of Preterm Birth. NEJM 359:262-273.